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Lets go to the tape
August 10, 2012 5:37 AM   Subscribe

Curious about the colored tape athletes[1, 2, 3] are wearing in the Olympics? Its Kinesio tape, developed by a Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist. Practice seems to be running ahead of science: 1 2.
posted by shothotbot (68 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wait, a product invented by a chiropractor/acupuncturist that makes scientifically-unsupported claims? Color me surprised.
posted by jepler at 5:49 AM on August 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


Numerous videos are available on YouTube.
posted by markkraft at 5:52 AM on August 10, 2012


but if it makes you think you will perform better, then is the effect still real ?
posted by k5.user at 5:52 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


My wife, a physical therapist, uses it on many of her patients, with almost always positive results (reduced inflammation, faster recovery, etc.). Whether that's due to an actual therapeutic influence or a perceived one, I don't think her patients care either way. Nor do I, when she tapes my wrists when my carpal tunnel flares up, or my back after moving boxes.

That said, more hard evidence gleaned from scientific trial to support the anecdotal evidence already out there wouldn't be a bad thing.
posted by schleppo at 6:00 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am pleased that this type of rigorous research is being conducted but my is science slow sometimes. As a child I performed similar experiments using duct tape on my pets and siblings but adults in those days did not know how to nurture kids like myself and were all like the kid is sick, where did he get a video recorder from, why did he smear their arm pits with jam and mustard, etc. I now feel vindicated but for a very long time I was very bitter; being labeled as a dangerous little freak simply because you're too young and don't have a fancy lab and title is crushing for a curious and sensitive child. At least they are all dead now.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:02 AM on August 10, 2012 [35 favorites]


I had looked at these athletes, saw the blue stripes, and assumed that they had tattoos that NBC did not want to broadcast. I thought this must just be computer generated masking.

I feel dumb now.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 6:03 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist ... and now one very wealthy guy.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:03 AM on August 10, 2012


The games look like a three year old's stuffed animal collection after her parents left the Hello Kitty Band-Aid box in her room.
posted by shothotbot at 6:04 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hmm, but how does it compare to the +5 Amulets of Baseball Enhancement?
posted by griphus at 6:04 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's no way this tape could be as effective as the magnetic wrist bands.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:05 AM on August 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


(Though is does look cooler.)
posted by cjorgensen at 6:05 AM on August 10, 2012


This years version of magnetic bracelets?
posted by Hactar at 6:06 AM on August 10, 2012


The Egyptian coaches like this idea so much that they wrap the whole athlete.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:06 AM on August 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


Aha. I've seen stuff like this on people in road races for the past couple of years and had really been puzzled what it was supposed to do. Answer: look pretty.
posted by psoas at 6:07 AM on August 10, 2012


Damn you cjorgensen, I had to go get a link (F-cking Magnetic Bracelets, How Do They Work?)
posted by Hactar at 6:07 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


My wife, a physical therapist, uses it on many of her patients

Yeah, my wife's a PTA, and when I asked her what that stuff was, she said, it's kinesio tape, duh. I had assumed, like Midnight Skulker, that there were offensive tattoos.

That said, she's heard of this stuff, but I don't think she uses it, and she's sort of woo-woo about what it might potentially do.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:08 AM on August 10, 2012


Huh, I saw that on many divers and first thought it was some sort of marker for high speed cameras or something.

Athletes are some of the woo wooiest superstitious folks around, so this isn't all that surprising.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:08 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Numerous videos are available on YouTube.

When the interviewed doctor has a fake tan and gelled hair spikes, you KNOW it's effective.
posted by DU at 6:12 AM on August 10, 2012


First thing that came to my mind? This.
posted by grabbingsand at 6:13 AM on August 10, 2012


k5.user: "but if it makes you think you will perform better, then is the effect still real ?"

What about if it's supposed to support an injured muscle/tendon/whatever and it doesn't. So that you re-injure the same area? Then no, the effect is the exact opposite.
posted by Splunge at 6:17 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I question the tone of this thread. The linked site clearly says "Real Science, Real Research, Real Results". What more do you boobirds want? Don't you believe in science?
posted by dirtdirt at 6:20 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


but if it makes you think you will perform better, then is the effect still real

So not only don't we know if it works, we don't even know if there's a placebo effect?

Maybe if you think there will be a placebo effect there will be.
posted by DU at 6:20 AM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


The UK's Advertising Standards Authority recently upheld four complaints about Kinesio tape's claims, after examining Kinesio's proffered evidence and concluding that there was no good evidence supporting their claims. They also note that much of the evidence offered by Kinesio was tangentially relevant at best: papers describing non-kinesio tapes, small studies with no or flawed controls, and references to non-peer-reviewed books. Kinesio's response is basically a complaint that the ASA's decision that advertised effects must be based on evidence from randomised controlled trials (as opposed to e.g. case studies) sets an unfairly and impractically high bar, concluding:
Whilst we regret that we cannot meet the high level of substantiation required by the ASA for Kinesio Taping and are disappointed at their ruling, we would contend that the widely seen use of Kinesio Taping by elite sports people throughout the world and the rapidly growing use of taping by many health professionals on a regular basis, is testimony to the benefit that Kinesio taping can have for some patients in aiding the treatment of certain medical conditions.
...which obviously doesn't address the question of whether the stuff actually works beyond having a powerful placebo effect. However, there are hints that it *might* be doing something real in some very limited circumstances. A recent meta-analysis of the literature so far says:
In conclusion, there was little quality evidence to support the use of KT over other types of elastic taping in the management or prevention of sports injuries. KT may have a small beneficial role in improving strength, range of motion in certain injured cohorts and force sense error compared with other tapes, but further studies are needed to confirm these findings. The amount of case study and anecdotal support for KT warrants well designed experimental research, particularly pertaining to sporting injuries, so that practitioners can be confident that KT is beneficial for their athletes."
Without getting into it, pain in general is remarkably susceptable to placebo effect and, where you have elite atheletes performing right at the limits of what's possible, I'd bet that tiny gains in performance from placebo effects will be important enough to encourage rigid belief (see also the Power Balance bullshit).

If it is just placebo, does it matter? As long as it's kept in the world of otherwise-healthy athletes as a harmless good luck ritual, then I won't be losing any sleep over it. But in the wider picture, this sort of thing can, I believe, weaken the pressure to keep all medicine evidence-based*, and there's a danger of it leaking into wider use on actual sick people.

*Yes, I know that not all evidence in current and common use is strongly (i.e. RCT) evidence based. I just really wish that it was, and maintaining the pressure is the only way to get us there.
posted by metaBugs at 6:21 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


That website just screams WOO.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:22 AM on August 10, 2012


The linked site clearly says "Real Science, Real Research, Real Results".

The Chinese place outside my friend's place says "FRESH, HEALTHY, AUTHENTIC."
posted by griphus at 6:22 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I was on a swim team a hundred years ago we would shave our entire bodies to go faster. Even if it didn't make us faster we thought it did. And that was an edge...
posted by xjudson at 6:26 AM on August 10, 2012


Fox News bills itself as .. aw sod it. This is too easy
posted by MuffinMan at 6:26 AM on August 10, 2012


One way I could see this benefiting athletes is by having the stretching/pulling feeling of the tape on their skin reinforce the "right" motions of their body and muscles for their sport or event - using all their abdominals on every hit for a beach volleyballer, or twisting their shoulder in just the right way for a diver. Though I guess by the time you get to the Olympics, you should probably already have the muscle memory thing down pretty well.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:26 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


see also the Power Balance bullshit

Yes, I have the feeling that Dr. Kase has rushed to occupy Power Balance's market niche after it was forcibly vacated...
posted by Skeptic at 6:29 AM on August 10, 2012


if there's no clear understanding of what the tape is supposed to do for you, how do the trainers/athletes know how to put it on?

Seems like any benefit would come from careful alignment and placement corresponding to a particular physiological theory -- like, say, "this tape increases explosive power delivered along its long axis by constraining the muscle to expand less along its short axis of expansion" or something of that nature.

But it all seems very Peter Belt to me.
posted by felix at 6:30 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought they were bandages. Like the divers with the tape on the middle of their backs? I thought they had accidentally scraped their backs on the diving boards or something in practice.

Guess not.
posted by jillithd at 6:32 AM on August 10, 2012


First thing that came to my mind? This.

Funnily enough, that probably also was the first thing that came to Dr. Kase's mind. Right before "PROFIT!!!$$$$!"
posted by Skeptic at 6:35 AM on August 10, 2012


It's big in the Premiership too, I first saw it on Gareth Bale's impressive thighs and had to google what it was. I wonder how long before I start seeing a bunch of people in the gym wearing it?
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:40 AM on August 10, 2012


The tape clearly works by creating small breaches in the membranes between alternate realities, thus allowing the user to temporarily "borrow" the uninjured body part of his/her alternate self. The tricky part is to use the correct color of tape. Too weak of an effect will result in the borrowing of a part from an alternate self who has the same injury, and too strong of an effect will result in the borrowing of a part from an alternate self who doesn't participate in the sport at all, which can lead to all kinds of hilarity in weightlifting events.
posted by gimli at 6:41 AM on August 10, 2012 [15 favorites]


if there's no clear understanding of what the tape is supposed to do for you, how do the trainers/athletes know how to put it on?

Oh, there's a complicated theory guiding how to put it on to address health problems. It's just that the theory was invented out of thin air. If there is any benefit beyond the placebo effect, it's entirely accidental.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:41 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe if you think there will be a placebo effect there will be.

Yes, indeed. I have a doctor friend who wants to get into the business of selling placebos as placebos. Different colors and sizes for different ailments, etc.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:43 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anecdata here. Taping itself (Kinesio- or other) is a long-standing element of p/t support of athletes and physical performers and can be hugely beneficial to support weakened or injured joints. I have made it through entire shows with sprained ankles based on the genius tape work of a good physiotherapist.

I found Kinesio tape (or its cheaper offlabel mimics) improved on regular tape in two ways:

1) its stretchiness and flexibility were more carefully calibrated -- it has asymmetrical flex, like one-way-stretch fabric, and it feels less restrictive but just as supportive;

2) it will happily stay on for a week, whereas most tape is gungy and falling apart a day or two later.

(2) meant that when I had a back injury, and my p/t gave me a patterning sequence for abdominal activation and then K-taped my lower back, for a whole week I could feel the tape every time I moved in a particular way, which reminded me to execute the muscle patterning sequence which would protect my back. Basically the elastic-band-around-the-wrist method of habit-breaking, but in reverse. She even said, "This won't do a whole lot for your back in itself, but it will coach you in the patterning that will." It was pretty effective.

So, there's a lot of space for tools in therapy or physical performance that fall between 'straight-up placebo effect' and 'scientifically validated by gold-standard clinical trials'.
posted by sixswitch at 6:47 AM on August 10, 2012 [19 favorites]


I wonder how long before I start seeing a bunch of people in the gym wearing it?

It's already happening. I have a friend of a friend who is a physical therapist / kinesiologist who loves the stuff so a few people at my gym are already wearing it. She gave me a few strips to use on my shitty back, but I haven't tried it yet.

Plus there is some kind of consumer grade version of it at my grocery store right now.
posted by SharkParty at 6:48 AM on August 10, 2012


Huh. In the "randomised controlled trial" of Kinesio tape for rotator cuff injuries (free, here), it was a test of KT tape in a "real" pattern against KT in a "sham" pattern. So at best, their results suggest that taping a particular pattern on an injured joint had an effect, but not that KT tape in particular is any better than, say, painter's masking tape or any other random sticky substance that they could have used.

Further, the guy administering the tape was a trained KT practitioner and therefore knew which of his patients was getting "real" and "sham" patterns. So... the study wasn't actually blinded in any meaningful sense and therefore the effect could well be placebo.

Even further than that, even if we trust that the practitioner was a perfect actor who gave no unconscious signs to his patients, the "real" KT pattern is much more elaborate than the sham pattern, and it's well known that more elaborate, invasive or unpleasant placebos have much stronger effects than simple ones. (It's an old ethical problem, particularly in developing anti-depressants where the drugs used to be quite nasty: people without nasty side-effects know that they're on placebo, ruining the blinding. So is it ethical to deliberately inflict side-effects on your placebo group, if the payout is an increased chance of discovering a better treatment for everyone?)

So, while this really isn't my field of expertise and you probably shouldn't take my word for it, I personally am happy to dismiss their strongest piece of evidence as complete bollocks.

Skeptic - occupy Power Balance's market niche after it was forcibly vacated...
Ooh, I hadn't heard about that. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
posted by metaBugs at 6:48 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


If some athlete came on here and started telling us how to read stuff on the internet and type and make jokes and learn and hang out, and he was saying "Eat fewer carbs! Wake before dawn, drink a protein shake, then do two hours of this reading and typing before you go to work! Every single day!", I might be like, "Dude, we've got this in the bag; it works just fine, thanks".

I feel the same way about us trying to act as if we know better than Olympians how to get optimal performance in their respective sports.
posted by surenoproblem at 6:50 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had the same thought as jillithd, especially sice some of the divers wear it in the same spot my daughter banged on the diving board last week
posted by TedW at 6:54 AM on August 10, 2012


I had looked at these athletes, saw the blue stripes, and assumed that they had tattoos that NBC did not want to broadcast. I thought this must just be computer generated masking.


This is terrifying.
posted by odinsdream at 6:58 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


K-tape, Magnetic bracelets, Power Balance, power lines, cell phone radiation, autism via inoculation, higher power: wherever need is perceived, people will believe. Wherever there is belief, there is money to be made.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:00 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I think I saw someone at my gym wearing this, but I thought it was just vet-wrap instead of regular sports tape.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:03 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I feel the same way about us trying to act as if we know better than Olympians how to get optimal performance in their respective sports.

You mean like forbidding your teammate from straightening her hair, using a lucky tape measure to line up your starting blocks, wearing your lucky socks and lucky bra, and chewing your food the same number of times on each side of your mouth?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:04 AM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


  1. "Kinesio tapes works, or it does not"
  2. A Game is being played... where you will win or lose.
  3. According to reason, you can defend either of the propositions.
  4. You must wager. (It's not optional.)
  5. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that Kinesio tape works. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
  6. Wager, then, without hesitation that it works. (...) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force, when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
posted by griphus at 7:13 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Practice seems to be running ahead of science

This is the scientific community's version of "Well, bless your heart," isn't it?
posted by enn at 7:21 AM on August 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


hard science it is fake. I used it and am not admitted to Lympics. See?
posted by Postroad at 7:29 AM on August 10, 2012


Speaking of Lympics, does it work for sex?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:35 AM on August 10, 2012


The last linked article talks about whether K-Tape is better/worse than regular therapeutic tape. And apparently, that's questionable.
I used to use regular tape on my back. It's sticks like...crazy.
So, when I needed to do something about the peroneal tendon on my left foot while marathon trainings, I chose the k-tape because it's stretchier, and sticks for a long time, without the insane residue and ouchiness upon removal that the traditional [leuko-tape like] stuff. It was the difference between not being able to walk without pain and being able to leap.
And just taped my calf now, too. Because apparently my body is falling apart.
I think there's plenty of woo in the k-tape people-they like to use words like "directionality" of the muscle.
But, I do think the k tape is an improvement on traditional therapeutic tape in not hurting/damaging my skin in places I put it. And comes in awesome colors.
Because hot pink taped calf is a lot cuter than "flesh" tone or dirty white taped calf.
posted by atomicstone at 7:38 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Chiropractic and acupuncture together! Two great quacks that quack better together!
posted by spitbull at 7:51 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


The reason scientists insist on clinical trials and evidence based medicine is not because they want to ruin everybody's fun. There are several fairly obvious reasons why someone who cares about health or athletic performance should insist on evidence-based practices:

1) The possibility that they might be actually dangerous--what if the taping causes people to hurt themselves by, for example, encouraging exercising through a minor injury and turning it into a career ending injury?

2) The possibility that it does nothing at all and is wasting time and money that could be invested on therapies that do work.

3) If it does happen to work, but we don't understand why, we can't build upon that to make sure it is working most effectively. The idea that it affects contracture of muscles is a possible one. A clinical trial could help support that and lead to future studies that could investigate that particular mechanism further to look for perhaps different tapes and taping patterns that enhanced the contracture effect even more, or even completely different technologies in perhaps shoes or clothing that take advantage of that same mechanism.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:01 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


This isn't very new at all, just more popular now. They were using at my very small midwest libreral arts college sports teams 2 years ago or so. Granted it was new then, but still it seems to have some use.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:04 AM on August 10, 2012


The reason athletes don't wait for scientists is that virtually every advancement in their fields grows from ad hoc experiments that precede scientific research. this includes everything from basic stuff like how to lift heavy things to make oneself stronger, to specific movement techniques. The idea that anyone will ever wait for the lab before trying something out is silly and impractical.
posted by mobunited at 8:25 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's exactly why I cook my own meth.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:52 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some years ago in the local hills we encountered another hiker whose knee was strapped up with this unusual tape. Conversation ensued and, having a somewhat dodgy knee myself, I tracked down a supplier and purchased the manuals and a supply of the tape. Over the years I've used it for a variety minor problems and it has generally been effective.
As was said of the musket - we expected little of it and it did that little well.

1. As noted above it lasts longer than other tape - several showers longer.
2. It stretches primarily in one direction (along its length) and provides support without constriction.
3. The stretching provides a slight massaging effect which does a remarkable job in getting rid of bruises.
It's not magic, it's not particularly new and quite possibly it has been over hyped - but it's useful stuff and may not deserve quite the level of scorn we're seeing here.
posted by speug at 8:56 AM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I saw a Chinese diver (gold medal) with a red piece of this stuff about 12 inches square on her lower back. I thought at first it was a gigantic tramp stamp of the Chinese flag.
posted by Flashman at 9:21 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


As someone with plenty of body hair, I find the whole concept to be a bit triggering.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:50 AM on August 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had looked at these athletes, saw the blue stripes, and assumed that they had tattoos that NBC did not want to broadcast. I thought this must just be computer generated masking.
This is terrifying.


Meet Nick Symmonds.
posted by fleacircus at 11:10 AM on August 10, 2012


surenoproblem: "If some athlete came on here and started telling us how to read stuff on the internet and type and make jokes and learn and hang out, and he was saying "Eat fewer carbs! Wake before dawn, drink a protein shake, then do two hours of this reading and typing before you go to work! Every single day!", I might be like, "Dude, we've got this in the bag; it works just fine, thanks".

I feel the same way about us trying to act as if we know better than Olympians how to get optimal performance in their respective sports.
"

::Looking up:: That's one huge strawman. We're gonna need a bigger flamethrower.
posted by Splunge at 11:48 AM on August 10, 2012


I have this stuff on my shoulder right now from my physical therapy appointment this afternoon. My therapist isn't the least bit woo-woo, neither is the clinic she works for (at a major hospital) and I was really surprised to learn that this is regarded with skepticism It absolutely makes a difference for me, and I don't think it's a placebo effect because when she tried it at a different angle, it didn't do much at all. Even if the science isn't there, I don't care, because it works for me and it's certainly not going to do any harm.

I am not any kind of athlete, I just have chronic neck and shoulder pain. This isn't some miracle cure, but it does help.
posted by desjardins at 2:27 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


speug: "but it's useful stuff and may not deserve quite the level of scorn we're seeing here."

I think metafilter is often quick to declare woo, not because we're smart, but because we like to think we're smart. We were the kids in class that relished correcting the teacher on some minutiae, because technically correct is the best kind!

So we're a community of people who are better informed than everyone else, and we're competing to out-skeptic one another. Even though experts can sometimes be wrong, and most of us aren't even experts.

Skepticism isn't actually about who can snark the hardest.
posted by danny the boy at 5:37 PM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


We were the kids in class that relished correcting the teacher on some minutiae, because technically correct is the best kind!

Says you. I was the kid who spent a semester drawing a flip-book of Eddie the Head jacking off a machine gun barrel on every page of his math textbook while you were up front smugly correcting our teachers. It takes all kinds.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:57 PM on August 10, 2012


One of the divers had it on his shoulder in a configuration that looked like an octopus. It looked cool. I think we should all start wearing it in crazy patterns in lieu of getting tattoos.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:04 PM on August 10, 2012


I have a case of plantar fasciitis and just started reading about kinesio taping. Now I'll feel so fashion forward when I finally give it a try. I mean, even if I'm still limping around in agony.
posted by Mael Oui at 7:58 PM on August 10, 2012


Confidence and mind management are huge aspects of event training and this kind of device aid can be really useful. Regardless of evidence, if the player/athlete has confidence in his arm/leg/shoulder/whatever because of a bit of fancy tape then it will get used. Hell, they'd spread jam all over if they thought it would make them faster etc.

I've found sports medicine / performance to be an incredibly fashionable area. Kinesiotape is just the current fad - though it looks as though it's here to stay. I mean, a lack of evidence didn't stop the trend of post-match ice baths! (which, if you've never experienced one, is nothing less than torture!).

Interestingly I'm hoping to be involved in a study next year which will look at the effectiveness of a variety of rehabilitation treatments and Kinesiotape is on that list. However, people won't let evidence dissuade them. I know people at the top level in sport who swear by their power balance bands. They should know better but you can't argue with an imaginary effect.
posted by ivorbuk at 8:18 PM on August 10, 2012


Hell, they'd spread jam all over if they thought it would make them faster etc.

Idea! Slather the athlete in bacon grease, release a hungry dog, athlete sets new world record.
posted by desjardins at 9:05 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


So now we got duct tape for people. What's not to like?
posted by moneyjane at 1:44 AM on August 11, 2012


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